The Iacocca International Internship Program's 2024 cohort participated in a preparation session ahead of their internships this summer

A total of 64 Lehigh University students will be working abroad this summer through the Iacocca International Internship Program (IIIP), and they’re already preparing for the trip by learning about their core strengths and how they can be applied to scenarios that other interns have actually faced in the past.

Marti Colasurdo talking to Lehigh University students
Marti Colasurdo '25 (right), a junior majoring in environmental engineering, talking with other students during the session.

A preparation session for 2024 intern cohort was held on Feb. 13, during which they explored their top five strengths from the CliftonStrengths assessment, which they took earlier in the semester. Seated in small groups, the students explored how those strengths could be applied to their internships, as well as their future career readiness.

“The whole point is to focus on what you naturally do well so you can navigate a situation,” said Carol Strange, Director of IIIP and a certified strengths coach. “So if a situation arises when you’re in a different country this summer, you’ll know how to tackle it with your natural strengths and navigate the situation successfully.”

Examples of scenarios the students considered were losing their passport, missing a connecting flight, losing their luggage, getting stranded after taking the wrong bus in a foreign country, dealing with offensive comments from co-workers, and losing their wallet and phone after falling asleep on a train.

“Reading these scenarios, I was like, ‘Oh no, I hope this doesn’t happen to me,’ but it’s important to be prepared,” said Marti Colasurdo ‘25, a junior majoring in environmental engineering, who will be traveling to Montenegro. “And talking about them with the other students was helping, because they suggested solutions I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”

This marked the second iiPATH (Iacocca Intern Prepare Apply Talents Highlight) Prepare Session for this internship cohort so far this semester. The first, held in January, served as a welcome and introduction, and the next one later this month will be about developing intercultural competencies, according to Anastassiya Perevezentseva, Assistant Director of IIIP.

Lehigh University students seated at several round tables inside a large room
Participants in the Iacocca International Internship Program during the iiPATH Prepare Session.

Another will be held in April about health and safety standards and protocols, and then a final session later that same month will serve as a send-off celebration before the students  depart for their internships. All flights are expected to be booked for the interns by the end of March, according to Perevezentseva, who discussed travel guidelines with the students.

“We’re not here to hold your hands, we’re here to help you become professionals, and we trust that you will do that,” she said.

IIIP provides interns with practical work experience, grounded in global context, aimed at enhancing students’ career readiness and intercultural competency. A total of 746 alumni have participated in internships since the program was created in 2011, working and living in 58 different countries.

During the Prepare Session, the students also explored and discussed the Core Competencies for Career Readiness as defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

These competencies include critical thinking and problem solving, oral and written communications, teamwork and collaboration, leadership, professionalism and work ethic, global and intercultural fluency, digital technology, and career management.

Lehigh University students talking while writing about communications on an easel
Lehigh students brainstorm about communication during their upcoming internships

The students are seated with different fellow interns during each session, allowing them to expand their personal networks and hear differing perspectives, Strange said. During the first session they sat with their future travel partners, and during the most recent season they were seated by majors.

Risa Nkululeko ‘25, a political science major who will be interning in the country of Georgia, was presented with a scenario in which return transportation falls through during a weekend trip, leaving her unable to return in time for work on Monday morning. This scenario previously occurred to another intern who was also working in Georgia.

“I feel like communication is key, so I’d let my employer know immediately what happened, and when I will be coming back, as well as how to make up the work,” Nkululeko said.

“You will all face challenges, like cultural changes, language barriers, new and different foods, and situations in homestays,” Strange said. “If you have better awareness of your natural strengths and can capitalize on them, you’ll know what to pull out of your toolkit that will allow you do to well in that situation.”